Closed Colo. uranium mine ordered to stop discharge
DENVER – The owners of a closed uranium mine near Golden were ordered Thursday by the state health department to stop discharging polluted water into a creek that flows into a Denver-area reservoir.
The state health department is taking action because Cotter Corp. has been discharging pollution without a permit and uranium levels in the water are significantly exceeding the safety standard, said Steve Gunderson, director of the state water quality control division.
The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety already has sent a separate notice to Cotter saying it believes the company is violation of several state laws.
Cotter could fines of up to $10,000 if found in violation. The Denver-based company didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
Hearings are scheduled July 14 and 15 to consider whether Cotter should face penalties.
State officials are concerned about rising uranium levels in Ralston Creek, which flows into a reservoir that supplies drinking water in the Denver area. They have said the water isn’t a risk to public health.
Uranium was detected in raw water going to the west-Denver suburb of Arvada, Gunderson said.
The city’s water treatment plants can filter out the uranium, but disposing of the contamination could become a problem.
The safety standard for uranium in drinking water is a maximum of 30 parts per billion. Gunderson said the levels in water contaminated from Cotter’s Schwartzwalder mine are about 500 parts per billion.
“They’re very small numbers,” Gunderson said of the rising levels. “But again, the standard is very small.”
In May, state regulators rejected Cotter’s plan to clean up contamination the mine, which operated from 1953 until May 2000.